Egypt burns more heavy fuel oil to free gas for export

Tanker carrying barrels of Russian fuel oil delivers its cargo in Matanzas
Liberia-flagged Aframax tanker Suvorovsky Prospect discharges fuel oil from Russia at the Matanzas terminal, in Matanzas, Cuba, July 16, 2022. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini//File Photo

CAIRO, Dec 13 (Reuters) - The amount of carbon-intensive mazut fuel oil Egypt uses in power stations has reached five-year highs as it seeks to maximise the amount of natural gas available for export, data published by the electricity sector's regulator showed.

The shift towards mazut, which is mostly produced in Russia, allows Egypt to generate electricity more cheaply and export more gas to alleviate an acute foreign currency shortage.

Mazut's share of total power generating inputs reached 20.95% in October, data from the Egyptian Electric Utility and Consumer Protection Regulatory Agency showed.

That was the highest in such data since September 2017, when mazut was 22.82% of the mix.

The Agency has only published the breakdown of fuels used in generation for certain days each month, but that still reveals an upward trend since late 2021.

In August, Egypt's government announced an electricity rationing plan and subsequently said it would include how much mazut should be used in power stations.

Fuel oil demand in Egypt reached its highest in four years at 135,000 barrels per day in September, data from the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI) showed.

Fuel oil shipments from Russia to Egypt also spiked this year, reaching 2.17 million barrels in June, the highest recorded by Refinitiv freight data stretching back to April 2015.

Eugene Lindell, head of refined products at energy consultancy FGE, said the savings were "massive" for those outside Europe able to get discounted Russian fuel. The West has shunned Russian energy imports in response to the Ukraine war.

Europe is also seeking to find alternative suppliers of gas, including from Egypt, as it weans itself off Russian supplies.

Lindell said burning high sulphur fuel oil is four times cheaper than burning TTF natural gas, a European benchmark, but there is a high environmental cost.

Asked last month about the environmental impact, Egypt's Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad told Reuters she did not have details on how much was being burned, but cited deals to expand renewable energy that Egypt announced while hosting last month's COP27 climate talks.

Egypt's electricity ministry did not respond to a request for comment and the regulatory agency did not share its complete database with Reuters.

Reporting by Sarah El Safty Additional reporting and editing by Aidan Lewis and Barbara Lewis

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